In the scenario of current technological advances in drone use one comes across successful collaboration between governments and companies to leverage the power of technology to benefit society. The most recent such example of emerged from an announcement by the World Economic Forum at Davos. It was declared that Rwanda will be the first country to adopt performance-based regulations for all drones. The Rwandan government partnered with Zipline the Silicon Valley Company that delivers essential medical products by drone. The partnership between WEF and Rwanda to co-design a policy framework will allow for partnerships like the one with Zipline, which has seen 3,000 deliveries to date, to scale up from small-scale pilots to larger programs with broader impacts.
Rwanda announced its new regulatory policy to streamline commercial drone innovation and approvals. These “performance-based regulations”- are policies that will decide the level of safety a drone operator has to reach but safety standards to be met by drones will be specified by the regulators. The Rwandan drone policy is the first of what the World Economic Forum (WEF) aims to be a steady stream of pilot projects for template policies that can be adapted over and over for other governments or business sectors. This will pave the way for partnerships like the one with Zipline, which has seen 3,000 deliveries to date, to scale up from small-scale pilots to larger programs with broader impacts. East Africa is becoming a hub for innovation in drones Zipline for example has expanded from Rwanda to Tanzania and Uganda, where coffee farmers are using drones to look for pests.
Zipline already delivers medical blood products for twenty hospitals and health centers through a partnership with the Government of Rwanda. This has improved access to healthcare for millions of Rwandans:
“Building on the success of Zipline’s blood delivery technology, we are working to nurture a drone industry,” said Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Rwanda’s minister of information technology and communication and a participant at this week’s WEF meetings, in a press release. “As we look to the future, we will continue to put in place the infrastructure and policy frameworks that accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies to transform people’s lives.”
Several possibilities of drone technology use emerge, right from advancing internet access, to linking crops from remote farms to international markets, to providing humanitarian access to areas that would otherwise be off limits.
“I’m passionate about this technology because I think it has the ability to connect the disconnected and empower the disempowered,” said Timothy Reuter, who leads the World Economic Forum’s work on developing regulatory frameworks and airspace management practices to help civil drones realize their full potential. “This is a radical democratization of air space. It used to be only wealthy governments or corporations could collect data from the sky or move goods through the sky. Now you’re empowering both less wealthy governments and new entrepreneurs to take advantage of the sky as a resource.”